WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to assist the firefighters, police officers, and other emergency personnel who risked their lives responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today voted in favor of the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. The full Senate approved the measure on a vote of 97-2.
Senator Reed cosponsored the bill to replenish the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund through 2090 to ensure compensation for first responders and individuals who suffered injuries or health problems as a result of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York City, Shanksville, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon and their aftermath. Without this bill, the fund's administrator announced it would need to significantly reduce its awards to victims suffering from cancer and other health problems stemming from the 2001 attacks.
“This was a vote to support our brave first responders and the heroes of 9/11 who selflessly rushed to assist their fellow citizens and are now suffering serious health issues. We have a national duty to stand up for and stand by these brave individuals and ensure they are well cared for. It should not have taken this long to do the right thing and approve this bipartisan bill. But I am glad Congress has finally taken this long overdue step and it will be retroactive to cover victims who were previously denied the assistance they deserve,” said Senator Reed, noting that the vote on the bill was significantly delayed by Republican obstruction.
Now that it has finally been approved by the full U.S. Senate, the measure goes to the President’s desk to be signed into law and President Trump is expected to sign it.
The Senate passage of the Never Forget the Heroes Act is an important step toward ensuring that victims dealing with serious medical issues are able to continue treatments. While Congress passed the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act in 2010 and reauthorized the legislation in 2015 for a period of 90 years, a portion of the law known as the Victim Compensation Fund was only funded through the end of 2020. Currently, the $7.3 billion fund is being rapidly depleted as it struggles with a surge of new claims from those who have dealt with health issues even years after the attacks, including multiple cancer diagnoses. In some cases, administrators have been forced to cut benefit payments by half.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated the bill would result in about $10.2 billion in additional compensation payments over ten years, including more than $4 billion for claims already filed. The bill would require that victims whose compensation payments were reduced because of the fund’s declining balance be made whole.
Today’s vote comes just days after the New York Fire Department lost its 200th member to a 9/11-related illness. 343 fire fighters died on the day of the attacks.